Be a Student of Your Student
One of the toughest aspects of the teenage years is the growing feeling our students have that the conflicts within their families are actually their own fault. And maybe as a parent, you hear that and agree that most of the developing conflict is the fault of your teenager. You may find yourself thinking if you could just fix them, things would be better. There is no doubt our teenagers have some attitude adjustments that need to be made and some issues that need to be dealt with. That comes with the parenting territory at any age. And while we are taking a look at how we can help them through their teen years, it’s also a good time to take a look at our own actions and reactions within our family to figure out how we can actually escalate or diffuse the tensions that arise.
As we experience anxiety in our own marital relationships, work relationships, friendships and even our own view of ourselves, it’s important to remember not to project these anxieties onto our children.
Because your teenager it not your best friend.
Your teenager is not a licensed counselor.
Your teenager is not responsible for the tension between you and your boss or you and your spouse or you and your other children.
As Rhett Smith (MDiv, LMFT-A), a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate, and part-time pastor to youth and families at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas explains in his article entitled “Managing Anxiety in the Family: Strategies for Changing our Relationship Dance” (fulleryouthinstitute.org), “If we really want to have healthy families, often we need to begin with the adults in the family taking responsibility for themselves. Rather than point the finger at our kids because they might be convenient scapegoats for our anxiety and conflict, real transformation lies within a family’s ability to do the hard work that relationships require.”
While this is solid advice, it can be really difficult to do! In the book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, Reggie Joiner points out that one of the best tools to help you walk the journey with your teenager is to “Widen the Circle.” In other words, it’s important to invite other healthy adults into the life of your family; adults who are committed to your children and your family for no other reason than that they care. And this is also a great way to begin to develop processes for taking a look at how our family functions and how we can develop the most healthy family possible.
With this in mind, your student will be invited to participate in an XP, or experience, that encourages them to choose some wise people to help guide them through middle and senior high school. And, we have also encouraged them to include you in the process. Look forward to some more information from your student’s small group leader after week 2 of this series.
Our teenagers are dealing with so many pressures and competing voices. Our best bet is to set them up for success by being their champion and a safe place for them to unload their woes and worries. While this may not be an easy thing to do, it is important for us as parents to start with ourselves and look at how we play into the tension within our family relationships. We are the best place to start when addressing the health of our families.